Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Karam Character Analysis

Abdul’s father, Karam is a sickly man who suffers too much from tuberculosis to work in the garbage business that would sustain his family. Karam wants to give off the image of being the hard-working father who controls his household, but he often must defer to his son Abdul and his wife Zehrunisa who actually run the family recycling business. Karam has grand dreams of moving his family to a richer suburb called Vasai where he believes that his children will grow up healthy and obedient to the old family values, but these dreams are cut short by the accusation that he and his family caused Fatima’s death. The court case eats up all Karam’s money and ruins his health, showing that no aspirations are safe for the poor of Mumbai.

Karam Quotes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The Behind the Beautiful Forevers quotes below are all either spoken by Karam or refer to Karam. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers published in 2014.
Chapter 5 Quotes

She was less and less sure she wanted to go to Vasai, less and less sure her husband would live to get there. She wanted a more hygienic home here, in the name of her children's vitality… On the floor she wanted ceramic tiles like the ones advertised on the Beautiful Forever wall - tiles that could be scrubbed clean, instead of broken concrete that harbored filth in each striation. With these small improvements, she thought her children might stay as healthy as children in Annawadi could be.

Related Characters: Zehrunisa Husain, Karam
Related Symbols: The Beautiful Forever Wall
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
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Karam Character Timeline in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The timeline below shows where the character Karam appears in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Between Roses
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...looking for Abdul, a teenage recyclables sorter who lives in a Mumbai slum. Abdul’s father, Karam, has decided that he will offer himself to the police when they come to the... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...mother does not always act properly either – Zehrunisa curses when she haggles for recyclables. Karam and Zehrunisa have nine children, but Karam is too sick to work. Thus, Zehrunisa must... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...hearts of all the residents. They are strangely polite to Abdul’s family, simply relaying that Karam, Abdul, and Abdul’s sister Kehkashan have been charged with beating One Leg and setting her... (full context)
Chapter 1: Annawadi
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
This section opens with a quote from Karam, explaining how the poor have wild, futile dreams of their children becoming rich. The chapter... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sunil
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
...his family) increases. These riots are specifically orchestrated by politicians from parties like Shiv Sena. Karam and Zehrunisa tell their children that this will all pass and India will be stronger... (full context)
Chapter 5: Ghost House
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...Zehrunisa watches Mirchi play, trying not to think about how Mirchi has failed 9th grade, Karam is in the hospital for his lungs, and Kehkashan has run away from her husband.... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Karam returns from two weeks in the hospital, much improved from breathing the clean air. Zehrunisa... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Karam thinks that Abdul will only be happy when they move to Vasai, away from the... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Now that Kehkashan has returned to care for the younger kids, Zehrunisa can go with Karam to visit Vasai. Zehrunisa had expected to spend her entire life in purdah, the Muslim... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Zehrunisa senses that Karam’s return from the hospital is a good moment to approach him about improving their house... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Hole She Called a Window
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
...home from school to help. They cart all the family’s possessions to the street where Karam and Zehrunisa guard them so nothing will be stolen. Other Annawadians pass by, curious to... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...window is finished and the Husains hammer their stone floor flat to prepare for tiles. Karam goes to buy the ceramic tiles while Fatima yells through the wall at the Husains... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...mother to go to the station to share her own side of the story. While Karam returns home empty-handed, Zehrunisa runs to the station and interrupts Fatima’s story of how the... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
...to twist off her other leg, while Fatima insults Kehkashan’s inability to keep a husband. Karam comes outside to defend his daughter’s virtue. (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...for improving the wall have turned out so poorly, then shocked to hear his father, Karam, call him to come beat Fatima. Abdul has never disobeyed his father, but he doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Come-Apart
Life and Death Theme Icon
Fatima has already registered accusations against Karam, Abdul, and Kehkashan. This prompted Karam’s arrest and Abdul’s subsequent flight to the police office.... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Abdul and Karam are kept in the police station’s “unofficial cell” where the police do not have to... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Abdul and Karam debate about paying these bribes, knowing they will have to save money for a lawyer... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...would help him, eventually deciding that Asha has seen his hard work over the years. Karam knows that Asha is only trying to show her own power in the police station. (full context)
Chapter 8: The Master
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Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...has no collateral to offer for the bail bonds. All the Husain’s possessions are in Karam’s name alone. (full context)
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Karam is desperate and angry every time Zehrunisa visits him because his health is failing in... (full context)
Chapter 10: Parrots, Caught and Sold
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...every week until his trial. There is no date set for the trial yet, but Karam and Kehkashan are still being held in prison. Abdul is angry that Zehrunisa released him... (full context)
Chapter 14: The Trial
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Karam teaches his children to believe in the justice of the Indian courts, though he privately... (full context)
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Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Kehkashan, and Karam take the bus to the courthouse in a Mumbai neighborhood called Sewri. The judge is... (full context)
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...asks again for a bribe to ensure that no new evidence of malicious intent appears. Karam refuses, preferring to pay his lawyer and trust that the judge will see the truth.... (full context)
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...judge considers this whole affair a petty problem not worth her time. But Kehkashan and Karam are still facing the possibility of ten years in jail. They lean forward in their... (full context)
Chapter 15: Ice
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One afternoon after the trial, Abdul, Mirchi, Zehrunisa and Karam consider the trash left in the storeroom. They have to sell it now, even though... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...in which a young Pakistani man is the lone survivor gunman of a terror attack. Karam laments the terrorists who twist the words of the Koran and Abdul feels hopeful when... (full context)
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...that this is a criminal trial that cannot be shut down by a private citizen. Karam checks with his lawyer and refuses the special executive officer’s corrupt bargain. (full context)
Chapter 16: Black and White
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...are scattered and often withheld from the poorest minorities in India, such as Zehrunisa and Karam who have tried to register for seven years and been denied. Slum dwellers who desperately... (full context)
Chapter 17: A School, a Hospital, a Cricket Field
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The Local vs. The Global Theme Icon
...begin again and the new judge hears more witnesses in the case against Kehkashan and Karam. Kehkashan gives up on caring about the verdict, since she is too consumed with the... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...defense make closing arguments for the Husain case. After teasing Kehkashan for her burqa and Karam for his job “in plastics,” the judge pronounces them not guilty. All that is left... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Karam sadly gives up on the dream of Vasai, giving long impassioned speeches on how the... (full context)